Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ugliness and Authenticity

Authenticity in the beginning
Photo by John Lynner Peterson

Authenticity has been an interest of mine for some time. I discovered on my own, with age and challenges, that living authentically enriched my life, while constantly creating a polished façade drained me. Now I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to play charades with your life.

A story on the Today Show stirred some thoughts about how we avoid authenticity in the media. A young woman experienced a freak accident at her bridesmaid party that left her paralyzed and in a wheel chair. Her fiancé stuck with her through the long journey of healing and they recently were able to marry. Sponsors of all sorts gave them the wedding of their dreams and a honeymoon to match. The story had a happy ending.

While they asked a few poignant questions about the difficulty of recovery and the drastic change in what they thought their future would be, they really didn’t zero in on the nitty-gritty of what has been required of them to get to the point of having the wedding more than a year later. The anchor didn’t ask, “Were there days when your anger surfaced and you lashed out at your fiancé as well as the friend who pushed you into the pool causing the accident?” The anchor didn’t ask the fiancé, “Did you think about walking away from this marriage on her ugliest of days?” The anchor asked glossed over versions of these two questions but basically, morning television eschews authenticity. Too ugly for breakfast.

So what does it mean to be authentic? It means putting the facts, feelings, thoughts, opinions and your true self out there for public consumption. It means not feeling like you have to white-wash your opinions or emotions before you express them. Yes, there are times and place when you don’t want to hurt others, lose your job or cause a revolution by stating your thoughts or feelings inappropriately, but most of us err on the side of polishing everything to a shine before we tell others.

After I had written about living authentically, I discovered my new guru, Brene` Brown who came to the same conclusions I did. I found my way to authenticity by living life; Brene Brown got there through academic research on shame. Her two books, I Thought it was Just Me (but it wasn’t) and The Gifts of Imperfection are must reads if you want to travel this journey of being yourself.

Have you had an experience of living authentically? Was it negative or positive?   

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